All About Acupuncture
Dr. Van Tine gives us an overview of Acupuncture and how it can help your pets!
Acupuncture is one part of a system of medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, that uses fine needles inserted through specific points in the skin, to influence the flow of energy and blood in the body. Acupuncture can alleviate pain, stimulate appetite, improve blood flow to the internal organs, and relieve inflammation and itching. Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient system of medicine which has been practiced for thousands of years.
The earliest known acupuncture patient was actually found as a mummified body of Otzi, a 40 year old Alpine hiker recently found on the border between Italy and Australia. His body had tattoos corresponding to acupuncture points at locations that would have been appropriate to treat his severe arthritis. His mummified remains were determined to be approximately 5300 years old.
Originally, acupuncture was used for humans with its use later expanded to animals. Bo He was an equine veterinarian who wrote the first veterinary text, Bo He's Canon of Veterinary Acupuncture, during the Qing-mu-gong period (659-621 BC). Although this text was not officially published until 960-1127 AD, it provides evidence that the practice of veterinary acupuncture has been around for over 2600 years. Acupuncture must be effective if it has been used consistently for so long. Let's look at how it works.
Acupuncture points are located just under the surface of the body, typically located in depressions around joints or between muscles in the connective tissue. They contain nerve fibers, muscle fibers, blood vessels, and increased numbers of mast cells, the cells that release histamine to create an itch response. What all this means, is that when an acupuncture needle is inserted into an acupuncture point, immune cells are stimulated to release histamine and cytokines, which dilate the blood vessels and stimulate the nerve fibers. It is currently believed that placing a needle in an acupuncture point distorts the connective tissue matrix, creating biocurrents which transmit nerve signals and influence blood flow in more remote body locations. Once believed to be more "magical", the scientific basis for acupuncture is being intensely studied and defined.
Acupuncture is commonly known to relieve pain. How does this work? Think of when you stub your toe, how much you toe hurts. But if you gently bite your finger, the pain in your toes seems less. One of the mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia, or pain relief, works on this same principle, the "gate theory". Chronic pain stimulates slowly conducting nerve fibers. When an acupuncture needle is inserted, it provokes a more sharp, acute pain, which stimulates faster nerve fibers that block the original pain signal in the spinal cord and prevent it from reaching the brain. Additionally, this stimulates the release of the body's natural pain killer, endorphin, in the brain and spinal cord, and causes the release of endorphins into the blood stream. If you have had acupuncture, you know what a glorious feeling this can be after a treatment. Often animals leave a treatment with a smile on their face tool
Another way acupuncture has been shown to work is through the action of nitric oxide (NO). NO causes dilation of blood vessels within the acupuncture point, local tissues and remotely. Two examples of this are modulation of blood flow in an arthritic joint by needling points local to that joint, and improvement of kidney blood flow internally by needling points known to influence the kidney organ. Stimulation of an acupuncture point has effects on the nervous system and blood flow to help restore the body mechanisms to normal, or homeostasis. Acupuncture can effectively treat respiratory conditions, skin disease, gastrointestinal disorders, urogenital problems and immune disorders, because of its simultaneous influence on the nervous system, blood flow and the immune system.
Interestingly in clinical practice, animals often come in because they are licking a specific spot on their body, causing local hair loss, or maybe even a sore. Examples are hot spots around the hips on a dog, or a cat licking all the hair off its tummy. Knowledge of acupuncture can also be useful diagnostically, as many times these spots are acupuncture points that are connected to and reflect internal locations and imbalance. Remember the mast cells mentioned earlier? These acupuncture points become sensitive, or "active", and the animal is actually trying to "self-heal" by stimulating these points. Knowledge of acupuncture can thus be used to see these patterns as a diagnostic clue to a potentially deeper problem.
Although it may seem like a recent development, acupuncture has been around a long time, and has been proven to be a consistently effective treatment method for a variety of diseases. It provides pain relief, reduces inflammation, and restores blood flow and nourishment to internal organs. The awareness and practice of veterinary acupuncture practice complements conventional medicine to provide a comprehensively integrative approach in the treatment and prevention of disease.
About Dr. Jodi Van Tine M.A., D.V.M., C.V.A., C.V.C.H.M.
Dr. Jodi Van Tine received a Master's Degree in Cellular Immunology from San Jose State University in 1990. She earned the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree from the University of California, Davis, in 1994. She practiced mixed animal veterinary medicine at the Animal Medical Center and Folsom Veterinary Hospital. In 2004, she elected to treat her pet with Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and nutritional therapy. This inspired Dr. Van Tine to pursue specialization in Eastern Medicine.
Dr. Van Tine received certification in Canine and Equine Veterinary Acupuncture in 2006 and worked as an associate at the Integrative Veterinary Center from 2006-2007. In December 2009, she was the first veterinarian to complete the College of Integrative Therapies (CIVT), earning Certification in Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine. She has since also received Graduate Diplomas in Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine and Veterinary Acupuncture. She teaches other veterinary professionals around the world through distance learning with CIVT. She unites Food Therapy, acupuncture and Herbal Medicine with conventional medicine to promote wellness, and prevent or treat disease in her patients.